One of the nice things about having traveled through most South American countries, and getting to spend big chunks of time in each one is that you start noticing and recognizing similarities between them.
In the 18 months since I left Europe I’ve spent the most time in Argentina and Colombia, two countries that culturally are not that close.
Colombia has a much more “latin”, Andean feel whereas Argentina, or Buenos Aires at the very least has a very (Southern) European vibe going on.
Medellin however, does have one very direct link to Argentina and this is Carlos Gardel.
If you’re not South American, nor have you spent any length of time in Buenos Aires, then you may be forgiven in not knowing who this is.
Simply put, Carlos Gardel is Tango.
Born in the late 1880s (controversy still rages about whether he was born in Argentina, Uruguay or France) he grew up in the Absato barrio of Buenos Aires and came to prominence in the early 1920s with his rich baritone interpretations of the tango-canción.
Throughout the 20s and 30s Gardel was, to put it simply, a superstar. He toured all over South America, New York, Paris, Barcelona, selling thousands of records and appearing in several early Hollywood movies.
Tragically, however this all came to an end in 1935 when he died in a plane crash in Medellin.
Popular there at the time, his death cemented the link between the Paisa people and the boy from Abasto, a link that still lives on to this day.
Medellin has a few places where you can enjoy the silky smooth sounds of Gardel and even has a Tango Festival. This page, written by two tango fanatics, gives more details of the places to visit in the Tango scene.
So, when the Salsa and Vallenato all get a bit much, slip on your high heels (the ladies too!), head down to your local milonga and pay tribute to the King, Carlos Gardel.
Here in BA you can’t go more than a few blocks with out seeing Gardel’s face. He is like Elvis or Sinatra, and in a weird way its comforting to seeing him all around, he is like watching over the city.